Come and See! John 1:43-46
Oct. 1 & 2, 2016 LWML Sermon Summary
Have you ever been surprised? Surprises can be quite pleasant. A man gets down on his knee, pulls out a beautiful ring, and proposes, “Would you marry me?” A young wife eagerly shares big news with her unsuspecting husband: “Guess what? We are having a baby!” Surprises can also be unpleasant. Heavy rain pours down, electricity goes out and your basement is flooded! An optimistic job seeker receives a letter of rejection after a seemingly great job interview.
All surprises are unexpected and people have vastly different reactions to the same surprise. This dynamic is what we read in today’s Gospel reading.
We read in John 1: Jesus found Philip and called him to be His disciple with the invitation: “Follow me!” Isn’t it most interesting that the first thing that Philip did was to seek out Nathanael – we sense excitement in Philip’s words: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” Philip speaks as if he had found the most valuable treasure and he must tell everyone about it. He receives the news with a joyful heart. This is often the way the gospel spreads – one person commends it to another, face to face, person to person, in the context of a relationship. Nathaniel, however, came back with a cynical reply, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Nathaniel longed for God to send a messiah who would lead Israel into a new era of international prominence. He was cynical and lost hope in the political situation of his day (with the recent debates, can we relate to this?). Like so many Israelites, he suffered only disappointment. Prophets and preachers throughout the centuries proclaimed that the Messiah was coming, yet Israel was still in Roman dominance. Philip was not “put off” by Nathaniel’s caustic response, he simply said, “Come and see.” AND HE DID!
When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, Jesus said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”
“How do You know me?” Nathaniel asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
When Jesus told Nathaniel that He had seen him sitting under the fig tree, this had significant meaning! The prophets of ancient Israel had used the image of the fig tree to convey a picture of God’s end-time kingdom. In Zacharias 3:10, the prophet wrote, “In that day, (when God’s Kingdom would come) each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree, declares the Lord Almighty.”
The prophet Micah used the image in the same way (Micah 4:5). In effect, Jesus was saying to Nathaniel, “I know what’s on your heart. I know you’ve been praying for the Messiah. I know you want God’s kingdom to be restored.” Jesus greeted Nathaniel unexpectedly by speaking directly to what was most on his heart. And Nathaniel responded with simple faith and amazing joy. He told Christ, “You are the Son of God, the King of Israel.” His quick switch from cynicism to earnestness indicates the depth to which Christ had touched him.
Now look what Christ promised in verses 50-51. Christ didn’t promise to restore Israel – he promised to open up heaven and show the inner workings of creation. The image of angels ascending and descending comes from the vision of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28:12. There, God promised that Jacob (who was a fugitive, running for his life from his brother, Esau, who wanted to kill him) that he would be father to a great nation and that God would always be with him (no matter the circumstances). Through this reminder (of Jacob’s ladder), Jesus let Nathaniel know His plans to build a great nation – NOT THE POLITICAL NATION that Nathaniel expected. Jesus was in effect saying, “I’m a bigger king than you ever expected.”
Always, with our encounter with Jesus – Prepare to be surprised! Nathaniel was right in asking: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” and the answer is with Philip’s invitation to meet Jesus: “Come and see!”
Can anything good come out of these elections? God surprises us. We often look for power and wisdom in the wrong places: in the best we humans have to offer, so of course we get cynical! It is far beyond the politics, it is in Jesus of Nazareth, the unassuming Man from Galilee, that we are called to see the power and the wisdom of God at work in our lives. We are called to fix our eyes not on ourselves, but on Jesus.
“Come and see” the love of God in Christ Jesus through water and the Word (baptism!) / (and hear) Jesus speaking to us (Bible reading, study, hearing His Word) / blessing us through bread and wine (The Lord’s Supper) – “Come and see.”
We also ask the Lord Jesus to open our eyes to His surprising opportunities for partnership with brothers and sisters in Christ from different ethnic and language groups at work, in our neighborhoods, in the United States and abroad, so that together we might invite even more neighbors to meet Jesus, “the Man from Galilee,” the Savior of the world.
Nathaniel asks: Can anything good really come out of Nazareth? Yes, indeed, Jesus, God’s greatest gift to us, has surprisingly come out of lowly Galilee for us and for our salvation. Good things do come out of Galilee!
Hey Nathaniel! Can God work out His salvation in spite of our political, social, economic situation? Can God work out His salvation in our surprises, disappointments and situations? Yes, indeed, Nathanael. “Come and see!”
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
Come, join us this coming weekend as Jesus continues to surprise and bless us in His Word and Sacraments.
Pastor Dan Myers